October 19, 2015
The New York Times recently published an article by Patricia Cohen, titled “What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts.” The basic claim of the article is that the federal government could raise a significant amount of revenue by increasing taxes on the richest Americans.
The article presents several statistics about how much money the federal government could raise if it increased the “effective tax rate” of high-income households: the total share of their income they pay to the federal government. For instance, the article claims that raising the effective tax rate of the top 1% of Americans from 33.4 percent to 45 percent could bring in “a whopping $276 billion.”
Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of whether $276 billion is actually a “whopping” revenue increase, how exactly would Congress go about raising the effective tax rate of the 1% from 33.4 percent to 45 percent? The article is not specific about this point. In fact, the article acknowledges that it is “sidestepping… the messy question of just which taxes would be increased.”
This is irresponsible policy analysis on the part of the New York Times. When it comes to federal tax policy the devil is always in the details, but here, the New York Times ignores the details altogether. When one examines exactly which taxes would have to be increased to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% from 33.4 percent to 45 percent, the endeavor begins to appear much more difficult than the New York Times portrays.
Read the full article at the Tax Foundation: No, Raising Taxes on the 1% Will Not Lead to “Surprising Amounts” of Revenue